A healthier cottage pie recipe made with lean ground beef & low carb root vegetables in a rich brown gravy topped with cheesy cauliflower mashed potatoes.
Looking for something that will warm you up from the inside? Cottage pie. Wondering what you can make with a package of ground beef and vege? Make cottage pie. Want to prepare a dinner your family will gobble up and thank you for? This cottage pie recipe will do it and it’s low carb to boot!
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KETO COTTAGE PIE TLDR: Use low carb root vegetables, thicken cottage pie with xanthan gum and tomato paste, make low carb cottage pie with mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes.
Like a good low carb beef stew, cottage pie is a comfort food winner. There’s a reason it’s called comfort food, my friends. Each bite tastes like “coming home” and feels like a hug for the soul. The small amount of extra hands-on and cooking time are absolutely worth it when this comes out of the oven beautifully browned and bubbly.
I made this delicious keto cottage pie with mashed cauliflower several times the last month. Each time the family fought over who would have the leftovers for lunch the next day. Although the gravy has no flour, it has a rich taste and heartiness that satisfies. And you won’t miss the potatoes because the mashed cauliflower topping is even better.
Traditional Cottage Pie Ingredients
Traditional cottage pie is a simple dish of ground beef (mince), onions and carrots in a flour-thickened gravy and topped with mashed potatoes. It takes ingredient subs and additions well and every home seems to have its own unique recipe. Cottage pie is the perfect meal because it combines meat, vegetables, and starch all in one dish. But, it’s also high in carbs.
HINT: To make Shepherd’s Pie, use ground lamb instead of ground beef.
Keto Cottage Pie
Lowering the carbs to make a keto cottage pie is easy but does require knowledge of low carb ingredients and flavor. A low carb food list is invaluable as is an understanding of keto products. Traditional gravy thickeners contribute to a satisfying mouth-feel that low carb versions lack. So, it’s important to add even more flavor to low carb dishes to satisfy the taste buds.
This healthier cottage pie recipe reduces carbs and increases flavor without the use of flour or cornstarch. To reduce carbs, swap starchy vegetables with lower carb root vegetables and top the dish with cheesy mashed cauliflower. Tomato paste and xanthan gum slightly thicken the gravy and dried porcini powder (optional) adds amazing rich flavor. Aromatics, herbs and spices bump flavor even more.
I found the best vegetables for my keto cottage pie filling were a smallish carrot and a medium turnip. While similar to radishes in flavor, turnips look like potatoes and mellow in flavor when cooked.
Not everyone likes cauliflower, but most people like my recipe for loaded cauliflower. Keeping that in mind, the mashed cauliflower topping includes cream cheese for creaminess, sour cream for tang and cheddar or Gruyere cheese for both texture and taste. Chopped scallion tops make it even better.
NOTE: Roll the carrot 1/4 – 1/3 turn while cutting. This produces many shallow chips that looks like more carrot than was used and they cook faster.
Other Ingredients for Cottage Pie (low carb)
- Bell pepper
- Green beans
Keto Cottage Pie (Shepherd’s Pie)
Pot or microwaveable bowl for steaming
Food processor or potato masher and hand mixer
Box grater, knife, cutting board, spoons & spatulas
Assorted bowls for holding ingredients
10 inch skillet or saute pan
8 to 10 inch casserole dish
Sheet pan big enough to hold the casserole dish
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (90%) (24 oz/680 g)
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 medium carrot, rolled (4 oz/113 g)
- 1 medium turnip, peeled and cubed
- 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Beef Base
- 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp dried porcini powder (optional)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional)
- 2 cups water or unsalted beef broth
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
Mashed Cauliflower Topping
- 1 pound cauliflower floretes steamed until tender
- 2 oz soft cream cheese
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 cup grated Gruyere Cheese (or white cheddar or Monterey Jack)
- 1/2 cup sliced scallion tops
- 1/4 tsp each, salt and white pepper
Cut cauliflower into small florets. Peel and roll carrot, peel and dice turnip and dice onion (put them together in a bowl). Slice scallion tops and chop parsley (keep them separate on cutting board or plate). Grate the cheese.
Measure the spices and xanthan gum into a small bowl or ramekin and stir thoroughly; this ensures the xanthan gum doesn't form clumps when added to the recipe.
Ready a microwaveable bowl or a pot with water for steaming the cauliflower. Fit the food processor with a metal blade.
Cottage Pie Filling
Add ground beef to the cold pan/skillet placed over medium heat. Work the ground beef into small bits as it cooks. (Starting in a cold pan takes longer to cook, but it's the secret to achieving small uniform pieces.)
Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the vegetables, beef base, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mixed spices, and water or broth. Stir to distribute ingredients and to dissolve beef base and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer.
Cover and simmer over low to medium-low heat for 20 minutes or until the carrots and turnips are tender. Turn up the heat and simmer uncovered until the gravy is a rich reddish-brown, slightly thickened and reduced until it clings to the ingredients but isn't dry. Stir in the parsley. Adjust seasoning. (If it needs a little "something" and you don't know what, add 1-2 tbsp sugar free ketchup.)
Mashed Cauliflower Topping
PREHEAT OVEN TO 375 F AND PLACE RACK IN MIDDLE POSITIION.
While the filling simmers, steam the cauliflower until tender. (I use my microwave: place cauliflower florets in large microwaveable bowl with 2 tbsp of water. Cover with cling film and microwave for 8 minutes on high power stirring half way through.)
Drain cauliflower and add to a food processor. Process until crumbly. Add the cream cheese, sour cream and salt and pepper. Process until smooth and adjust seasoning. (Or mash well by hand and whip with a hand mixer.)
Remove the mashed cauliflower to a bowl and stir in the cheese and sliced scallion tops. (Adding the cheese in the processor gets the blade all gummy and is hard to clean.)
Spray the casserole dish with olive oil. Scrape the cottage pie filling into the casserole and spoon the mashed cauliflower over, making sure to gently spread it to the edges of the dish. OPTIONAL: Grate 1/4 cup more cheese to put on the top.
At this point the cottage pie can be covered tightly and frozen. Cool completely, first!
Place assembled cottage pie on a sheet pan to catch drips and bake for 40-50 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Brown under broiler if desired.
Serves 6. Each hearty serving is 7 g NET CARBS.
- Cover and refrigerate up to five days or cover and freeze up to 3 months. Reheat portions in the microwave.
- To reheat previously cooked cottage pie: Thaw completely in the refrigerator. Reheat individual portions in the microwave. To reheat the whole recipe, place thawed cottage pie on the counter for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F and bake covered for 40-50 minutes or until the center is hot.
- To reheat frozen, unbaked whole cottage pie: Thaw completely in the refrigerator. Let the cottage pie come to room temperature on the counter for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place on a sheet pan and bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes or until the cottage pie is bubbly and the center is hot.